As a retired member of the Los Angeles City Fire Department, I have mixed feelings about Del Olmo's column. I agree that discrimination occurred in past years and that some form of corrective procedure had to take place; it was affirmative action.
But one of the resulting problems that must be discussed is the fight we have had to maintain standards. He correctly stated that in emergencies there must be "courageous men" to handle the incidents; he should have also stressed that courage must be accompanied by qualification, training and knowledge.
There are many dead courageous firefighters who lacked the skills necessary to do the job and, as we teach in the fire service, "they became part of the problem." It is sad that we have been witness to a sometimes good affirmative action program that forces us to hire and promote unqualified people.